Mushroom pasta

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Mushroom season has started a little late this year. There were some around in early May but I’ve been waiting for the cooler days and the rains to come for them to really start cranking. The Lactarius deliciosus, also known as Pine mushrooms or Saffron Milk Caps are a plentiful mushroom that very easy to find at this time of year. I like to pick them very young when they haven’t been eaten by any other critters. As the Latin name gives it away, they’re delicious. These ones will be cooked up using the following recipe using wonderful South Australian produce. It’s also pretty exceptional when eaten with lovingly made homemade pasta.

8 garlic cloves, finely grated

2 red onion, finely sliced

1 tablespoon Murray river salt

750 grams pine mushrooms, sliced

125 grams b.d farm butter, diced

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

cracked pepper to taste

1/2 cup Adelaide Hills white wine

1/2 cup flat parsley, chopped

500 grams cooked pappardelle L’Abruzzese pasta

Preheat a pan to a high heat. Add garlic, onion, salt, pepper. Top with mushrooms then finally add cubes of butter and pour the oil. Cover with a lid and cook on high heat for 5 minutes without stirring. Uncover then add the wine and stir to combine. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. The mushrooms should still be firm but cooked through.

When ready add parsley and stir through cooked pappardelle pasta to serve.

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Roasted chestnuts

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I love talking about food almost as much as I like eating it. The other night a friend came over for dinner and we started talking chestnuts. I was keen to get my hands on some fresh local ones. Turns out after 18 years of friendship I had no idea this friend doesn’t like chestnuts but can get them easily from a neighbour that doesn’t like them either. A few days later some chestnuts turned up on my front door step. I also found in my travels a row of chestnut trees growing along a fence dropping nuts on the side of the road. Needless to say I was sorted for chestnuts.

The ones in the supermarket are often not stored properly and can be mouldy. They need to be stored at around 0 degree celsius and will keep for a year and still be as fresh as when they fell off the tree. This is my go to recipe for roasted chestnuts and the way I love eating them.

Preheat the oven to the hottest it will go – mine goes to 230C. Chestnut husks wrap around the nuts like a cactus. Use some strong leather gardening gloves to pry the nuts free. You can also stomp them with your feet and crush the husk off if you don’t have thick gloves. Give the nuts a decent cut about half way through, across the middle of the domed side. Place nuts in a cake tin about one deep. Then add water to almost cover them. Give them a generous sprinkling of Murray River pink salt and roast for about 10 mins. You’ll know they’re ready when the shell peels back off the inner kernal. If you don’t like the flavour of the inner skin they can be boiled a bit longer to make it easy to remove. Peel off the shell and eat while still warm. Enjoy!

Catching strawberry runners

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Each year a strawberry patch should double in size with runners forming new plants. Generally it’s a good idea to catch the runners before they set up a new home in the patch so it doesn’t become too overgrown. An overgrown patch can decrease strawberry yields. Also, its a good idea to replace your patch every 2 -3 years to keep the plants happy and healthy.

About a month ago when the strawberries were first sending out their runners I grabbed a whole bunch of old pots and filled them with potting mix. Then I pegged the runners to the edge of the pot so the roots would take hold. I gave them a tug today and they have taken root in the pots. Just cut the stem to seperate it from the mother plant and they can be planted now where you want them to go or given away to friends and family.

Growing your own organic strawberries is a easy and much better than eating conventionally grown ones. Apart from tasting no good the conventional ones will always be contaminated with pesticide and fungicide resides. The big commercial Australian growers in Victoria use nearly 30 tonnes of methyl bromide on the 100 million strawberry runners they grow each year for sale in your local hardware store. Methyl bromide has been banned around the world for the last decade because it depletes the ozone layer. Definitely a crop to choose organically grown – better for your health and the environment.

Scrap vinegar

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This long wet summer has seen a bumper crop of apples. This tree grows by a creek near a friends house. I collected from it last year and grabbed some again this year too. I’m experimenting with different apple recipes to use up this autumns abundance. Drying them has been an easy way to preserve. A few weeks ago my neighbor gave me a big crate of golden delicious apples and I made fruit leather with them. With the left over cores and peels from the apple leather I had a go at making scrap vinegar. It was pretty simple and turned out great! A few things to remember before starting:

  • use a sterilised jar
  • use organically grown and ideally freshly picked apples so that the good microbes are present to begin the fermenting process
  • if you’re using town water let it sit overnight before attempting the recipe to let some of the chemicals to evaporate from or it might kill the good microbes and not ferment.

Scraps of 12 apples, cores and skins

2 tablespoons raw sugar

8 cups water

optional, 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar with mother

Remove any bruised and damaged bits of the fruit. Place in all ingredients in the jar and give a good stir. Cover the mouth of the jar with a thin piece of cloth and secure with a rubber band. I added a few drops of apple cider vinegar to the cloth to sterilize the cloth and to inoculate it with good microbes. The scrap cider needs to breathe while fermenting.

Stir it once or twice a day when you remember to with a clean kitchen spoon. It should start bubbling and frothing as it ferments. A few days later it should taste like sparkling cider. You could probably strain and drink it at this point it’s pretty nice. I left mine in the jar for almost 3 weeks. If you bottle it too early it might keep fermenting which will then risk explosion if using glass. Wait until all the fruit has sunk and all the fermenting action is over. Then strain the scraps from the liquid and store in sterilized bottles in pantry for up to a year.

If you detect any fizz after bottling make sure you burp the bottle so it doesn’t explode. Burping just involves opening and closing the bottle to let the gas escape. It’s not as acidic as apple cider vinegar made from apple juice but is still pretty good.

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